EDITORIAL: Congratulating the best and brightest of Alaska
As the managing editor of the Journal for a little less than a year, I can say with certainty that no project undertaken over that time can compare with choosing our annual Top Forty Under 40 class. I can also say with equal certainty that no other project has been as rewarding.
When you spend all day buried up to your neck in the news, it can be easy to become cynical or pessimistic with a still-sluggish economy five years after Bear Stearns collapsed, an overbearing and over-regulating federal government, unsustainable national debt, a Congress paralyzed by partisanship, and daily human tragedies both domestic and abroad.
While those concerns have not abated, nothing has done more to restore a personal sense of optimism about the future than reading the 200 nominations covering some 500 pages about more than 140 individual Alaskans whose family, friends and clients felt were worthy of consideration for the Top Forty Under 40 honor.
Among their stories were those who have overcome deep personal tragedy, who have made their businesses succeed in spite of these recent five years of economic uncertainty, who are making the public sector work more efficiently and who give so much of themselves to help the less fortunate.
With a third of our state economy dependent on federal funding and two-thirds of our lands subject to the jurisdiction of Washington, D.C., many times Alaskans will rightly complain that parts of our destiny are out of our control.
One thing you will not find in the Top Forty Under 40 magazine inserted into this edition is anyone who is letting outside forces guide his or her path, but who instead are making their own destinies — and at the same time improving the future of this great state.
Outside of one glaring typo that I will leave to you, our eagle-eyed readers, to discover, I cannot be more proud of this publication. For the first time we have full color, glossy stock from cover to cover along with 40 professional portraits. It is a publication truly worthy of the people who are being honored.
You may also notice some people wrote a little more about themselves than others, and some are a little more comfortable in front of a camera. That’s natural, and reflects the diverse group of people who were selected.
(As a side note, I will remember next year to give the winners an overall word count for their survey responses. Because we asked more personalized questions this year than the past, it was very difficult to edit some of the amazing responses we received to the survey. We ended up getting everyone to less than 1,000 words, with some needing to continue at the back of the publication.)
We are happy to have a strong contingent from the Interior — eight honorees from Fairbanks and North Pole along with four other UA Fairbanks alums — and a pair from Southeast. We truly want this to be a statewide honor and hope to have an even greater number of nominations next year from the Valley, the Peninsula, the Panhandle and rural Alaska.
On a final personal note, the best part about the project was notifying the winners. As you may guess, people are not always happy to receive a call from the news media. But for at least a day, everyone I called was glad to hear from me.
And in the process, I realized how much this honor means to our fellow Alaskans. It was a humbling experience, and a true motivation to do our best to serve you.
So congratulations to you, our Top Forty Under 40 winners for 2013. You have inspired us much more than we could ever honor you.
Andrew Jensen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.